Mississippi’s Dark Shadow
They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.—Ephesians 4:18
“When the past no longer illuminates the future, the spirit walks in darkness.” – Alexis de Tocqueville
There is a shadow that grows larger and darker everyday. It spreads across Mississippi from town to town, and it can be heard in the stories of desperate parents seeking educational options for their children. It can be seen in the hollowed out remains of historic buildings in once vibrant small towns. It can be felt in the elderly’s fear of their own communities, and worries over lack of supervision of the young and aimless.
It’s sadness and confusion can be found in the dwindling attendance of church services that were once the center of social life; the unhealthy and impersonal quick bite from drive-thru restaurants that have replaced Mom and Pop diners and the laughter and love of family dinner tables. The compartmentalized and data-targeted members of our families are almost constantly divided by personal technology and tempted by individualized offers of custom entertainment.
And it’s written in expressions of hopelessness and stress on the faces of Mississippians of all walks of life, regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status.
This darkness has been found throughout history hanging over those who live on the margins of life: the homeless, the abused, the mentally ill, the residual humanity of broken homes and broken families. Local charities and churches once reached out to stop degeneration of this kind by providing help to many in their midst. But today these traditional institutions have been relegated to busy-bodies, raising funds more often to build monuments for and to themselves than to assist others in repairing human brokenness.
Poverty is, as it always has been, a fact of life. It is inescapable and undetachable from the human condition. However, the poverty of character that drives self-affirming power dulls the lights within Mississippians. It compromises unity with the evil emotion of envy.
Poverty is indeed a fact. But it hasn’t always been so widely believed as inescapable.
Too few traditional institutions exist today to inspire people of all walks of life to re-engage and strive to do better than the circumstances into which they were born. Society, as it has stumbled, has gradually misdirected the individual away from the wisdom taught by personal failures. Mass reaction has discouraged—even maligned—the search for individual purpose. It has shifted consensus from the values of productive citizens toward anger and blame. Equality today is less about obtaining and protecting natural god-given rights and more a fight to constantly redefine the “unfair advantage” of others.
Too few in positions of influence argue anymore against the fact that government welfare, in conjunction with government restriction, has become an excuse for the desperate to settle for less than their best, to give up on their passion and purpose. Once promoted as a basic “safety net”, government programs are now, for many people, a cradle for perpetual infancy. The thoroughly institutionalized persona aligns with a culture of entitled grievance.
While all of this is evidence of a social slide of epic proportions, it’s not as simple as blaming dependency solely on dependents. And, although efficiency is important, it’s not as simple a fix as putting more restrictive requirements in place and congratulating our governing bodies for a job well done. History reveals a much more sinister concoction afoot.
There is much more to this dark shadow than just the sapping of an individuals energy, and the desperation it feeds is more than the self-loathing lies of personal pity. Like a disease, it adapts a variety of hosts to aid in spreading the infection. Born of greed and manipulation and perfected by hypnotically witnessing personal ambition for power, promulgators disguise the seeds of despair in the cloak of their own heroism. They sacrifice character — if they ever aspired to it or knew it’s example — to gain the power they seek “to make things better”, a phrase that is as amorphous and dangerous as any ever spoken.
Within the speculative expression of those words are excuses for power, yet none of the responsibilities of leadership. How a person might “make things” fit an envisioned future depends entirely on the presentation of current circumstances and how they are to be made “better”.
This is where the vision is shown as a ruse. Deeper study reveals the systematic persuasion of an ingrained ideology that justifies a new slavery. It is servitude based not upon race or ethnicity, or unpaid debts, but upon the restriction of class, idealized cultural distinctions and the whims of prideful self-anointed gatekeepers.
The self-professed problem solvers, their brains foggy from the infectious effects of the bout with darkness consuming them, twists a fable of public service and sacrifice that they tell and retell to the public through politically affiliated coercion. The story told is one where those grasping for power and personal fame are cast as the hero; where they, by virtue of their perceived super-human abilities will “grow the economy” for everyone; and they, by virtue of their wisdom and skill, will “create opportunity” for others.
They brutishly and forcefully promote that theirs is a “better” system. They make tactical demands that there be complete faith, that there be no difficult questions asked and that all who desire a place in the new utopia refrain from pointing out conflicting facts. Above all, everyone must give as directed, when directed.
These self-adopted masters aren’t experiencing, as others will, a poverty of means. Convinced of their own self-worth, they scheme to raid the real abundance of society, and they systematically drain every last drop of what’s left of Mississippi’s vitality along with her honor and her dignity.
Decades of government schemes devised to centralize control of resources have produced a breed of highly-skilled vulture in this state. These vultures have developed precision methods for pulling every last strand of meat from the bones of the overtaxed and over-burdened. They eventually turn their focus upon those with who have refused to succumb to the same temptations to become one of them. The daring who step-up and question are labeled and, if need be, singled out for public persecution.
The tried and true methods of history have been incrementally substituted for a soul-destroying machinery, until the time has arrived with so little left to feed upon that faction is enraged into a froth of action against faction.
Corruption has caused great damage to our beloved state. The springs of Mississippi are drying up. The once abundant sources have been nearly all rerouted, jealously poisoned, or gluttonously sucked dry. The generational wisdom of how to live in harmony, to nurse and conserve the natural lifeblood of production, to renew in our time the essence of humanity, to feel heat from stoking the flames of our fierce independent agrarian memory, and to inspire in the next generation stewardship of the spiritual and natural gifts that sustain a free society–these lessons were learned and perfected by ages of experience, but are now in danger of being lost to indifference.
It’s time to bring these virtues from underneath the heavy weight of the shadow. It’s time to relearn them.
A dark shadow needs light to exist, but a lights powerful brightness is generated from within.
Many may not fully understand the political game as it has come to be played in Mississippi, but that doesn’t mean they will misunderstand the sinister actions that come from those who seek advantage through political power. Mississippians see it and experience it daily. It greets them like a slap in the face in towns and communities big and small across the Magnolia State. Many lives and livelihoods have been destroyed by these actions. Many opportunities have been lost to the restrictive control of government demands, and addiction to federal government subsidies.
Working Mississippians know well that they’re options are smothered by this heavy-hand.
The wisdom of subsidiarity, by contrast, does not seek to destroy or control. It seeks to allow adherents the decision of how and when to provide the fruits of their labor and to best determine the needs of those they serve. This inheritance seeks only to be shown the respect it is due and the peace it provides.
This happens first and foremost by rediscovering and fortifying strong service connections at the local level. Only then might the influence of those who trade personal political favors from state and federal level government be met head-on to halt the bypass of the people who live and work in the local community.
There are still heroes in Mississippi, real heroes, people willing to put their love of community and state first against this infiltration of lifeless greed and sprawling idolizing of human engineering. The search is on to find more of these heroes and to inspire Mississippians to renew the fight for themselves, their families, and their communities.
The strength needed to brighten Mississippi’s future is found far from marbled halls and ostentatious constructions. It’s found where it always has been most at home. It’s in the hearts and souls of those who live unapologetically in harmony with the soil and the community. They are the key to nurturing the movement that will begin Mississippi’s long and arduous journey. Just the reconnection to a natural tempo of living would much improve the focus of our senses to our surroundings. can inspire new life in towns and communities across the state.
Mississippians who have maintained such inner strength and emotional intelligence as that described can inspire new life in towns and communities across the state. They can begin to awaken everyone around them to defeat the shadow . . . if we can find them. They will if we can convince them that this is a purpose of historic importance against a threat of enormous consequences.
The first aim is to enable many others to recognize this shadow for what it is, a very real and growing threat to the people of the state and region. The second aim is to show how those who perpetuate the growth of this shadow do so in seemingly innocent ways that they attempt to easily explain away. But, for the self-serving ends they have in mind, they are anything but innocent. This leads to a third aim: to reveal the reality of the greed and the hunger for power behind these efforts.
Although this is not intended as a strict discussion of the economy, the hope is to show the need for some simple basic lessons in free-market economics where such discussions apply to Mississippi’s current circumstances. There is also hope to show how a reliance on the same rules applied to capital markets energize individual rights and can heal Mississippi communities from within. Most importantly, there is hope to provide a framework for discussing the possibilities that exist for Mississippians, not just elected officials, to cut a path out of the current cycle of dependence.
The book can be broken down into four sections:
The Games We Play
- The Numbers Game–A look at the real problems with the current government growth agenda and how elected officials team up with bureaucrats and lobbyists to compartmentalize data and present it as a success story instead of the truth that their ideology has failed Mississippians while making corporate cronies with whom they closely align a lot of money.
- The Political Game–How it’s played to pit voters against other voters and what could be done to create new pathways to consensus and leadership from across the state.
- The Ground Game: A Starting Point–How new leadership can inspire new hope by banding together to tie down government while giving communities the recovery time needed to gain strength to rise.This section provides examples of legislation that could have the effect of getting the ball rolling by reestablishing a commitment to the proper roles of local, state and federal government.
- Searching the Soul: Understanding It’s NOT A Game–In this final section we ask one question every individual should look in the mirror to answer: Who are you? (One doesn’t need money or detailed knowledge of the inner workings of government to get started. He or she only needs to truly care.) Once each reader has, through their own personal acceptance, shown the level of character and commitment to join in this task, they will find resources. Check lists designed to begin and foster growth of local civic groups are made available. This will aid in finding and convincing the talented neighbors around you that they will benefit the work of the group, as the groups work will benefit them.
What you won’t find in this book: Excuses or political cover. No protection and no projection.
Don’t like the direction Mississippi is headed? Here’s a hard truth for most of us to swallow: it’s our fault.